MANHATTAN — Was the bye a week ago good timing for Kansas State’s football team, coming off a loss at Vanderbilt and looking ahead to the start of the Big 12 schedule?
Thoughts were mixed among the players, and while the bye week enabled the Wildcats to heal their bumps and bruises, not having a game last Saturday fueled the emotions to play a bounce-back game.
Coach Bill Snyder was extremely pleased with the Wildcats’ practice session Monday as they began preparations to face Baylor at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
“I thought (Monday’s) practice collectively was probably the most spirited that we have had throughout the course of the year, which pleases me,” Snyder said. “I think getting into conference play brought some enthusiasm, as did getting a bye week where they can focus their attention on preparation for this ballgame a little more because it’s going to be here pretty quickly.”
Tight end Dayton Valentine said the enthusiastic attitude was a combination of factors.
“I think just the attitude of knowing that this week we’re finally getting into conference play was big,” Valentine said. “Last week we had the bye coming off a loss and guys kind of felt down that we didn’t get to come out and play a redemption game and take out that anger.
“We realize how important this week is to come out and be prepared to play Baylor and start out the conference strong.”
The Wildcats (2-1) have a good track record coming off a bye with a 21-9 record under Snyder. And there is the feeling of a fresh start after the completion of nonconference games.
“It’s almost like starting over with a 0-0 mindset and a brand new season,” Valentine said. “There’s a championship to fight for every single week.”
K-State is 11-11 in Big 12 openers but this is only the fifth time the first conference game is at home, where the Wildcats have gone 3-1.
The 14-7 loss at Vanderbilt knocked the Wildcats out of the top-25 rankings, but the goal of winning the Big 12 title — or at least finishing second to reach the conference championship game — is just beginning with the first of nine straight Saturdays against Big 12 competition starting with Baylor (0-4, 0-1 Big 12).
“They all counted before but now it really counts,” defensive end Kyle Ball said. “We’re still playing for everything we were playing for before the Vanderbilt loss. We still have a lot to play for. The Big 12 championship is still on the line.
“It’s going to be a long stretch. Mentally and physically you’re going to get tested but you have to keep going. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. We can beat anybody we’re going to play against and they can beat us, too, so we have to be ready.”
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.